Doug Ford won’t say what Highway 413 will cost taxpayers
Building the controversial Highway 413 is a key Progressive Conservative campaign promise, but Doug Ford refuses to say what the freeway will cost.
May 5, 2022
Doug Ford is refusing to divulge the price tag for the controversial Highway 413, the Progressive Conservatives’ key election promise.
“We’re going out for a bid process and once we get the bid process, we’ll have a better idea what its costs,” the PC leader told reporters in a muddy field in Brampton, near where the proposed 60-kilometre highway linking Milton and Vaughan would go.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, noting Tory donors with land near the planned route have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party, charged “Ford is only building the 413 to help his developer buddies and everyone knows it.”
“People don’t want decisions to be made based on which developer cut Doug Ford’s PCs a cheque,” said Horwath.
Highway 413, the cost of which was not accounted for in last Thursday’s $198.6-billion budget, is a cornerstone of the Tories’ re-election bid on June 2.
Ford insisted Wednesday it would be imprudent to divulge the price-tag before the contracts are tendered.
“The worst thing you can do on a construction site is give an exact dollar figure,” he said, surrounded by Brampton PC candidates and a phalanx of hard-hat-clad LiUNA union members for his first event of the 29-day campaign.
“We’re going out for bid. There’s going to be a competitive bid through the process -- and once we have that bid, we’ll make it public.”
Pressed by journalists for a “ballpark” figure of $10 billion to $12 billion, Ford wouldn’t bite.
“Again, we’re going to have to go out for bid and we’ll get a very competitive cost play (from) a multitude of different companies, but we’re going to get this ... highway built.”
Forensic accountant Charles Smedmor has calculated Highway 413 would cost $8.2 billion -- and the related 16.2-kilometre Bradford Bypass another $2.2 billion -- “based on previous estimates, costs per kilometre of highway and five per cent annual construction inflation.”
But the Tories, who believe the projects will appeal to Greater Golden Horseshoe Area voters even though they are years from construction, have repeatedly declined to confirm the $10.4 billion tally of their two signature highway plans.
The New Democrats, Greens, and Liberals oppose the new freeways over environmental concerns.
While in government four years ago, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca scrapped Highway 413 -- which would raze 2,000 acres of farmland, pave over 400 acres of Greenbelt land and slash through 85 waterways -- because it would only save motorists between 30 to 60 seconds per commute.
“Spending north of $10 billion and taking far more than 10 years to build a highway that will only save a small handful of commuters mere seconds on their trip -- and to pave over the greenbelt and to destroy wetlands and farmland -- will not give people living in this region ... any real relief,” said Del Duca.
In Etobicoke, he stressed he would axe Ford’s revived freeway scheme and use the $10 billion saved to build 200 schools and repair 4,500 others.
“This is as clear a choice as you can find in the election campaign,” the Grit chief said.
Ford countered that the Liberals closed 600 schools during their almost 15 years in office, and the backlog of repairs tripled in that time.
“We’re building $14 billion of new schools. We’re catching up on the backlog ... it’s just such a contrast,” he said.
“They destroyed our province, destroyed our health care, education, long-term care. They didn’t build any roads or bridges or highways at all. It was a total disaster.”
Neither Highway 413 nor the Bradford Bypass, which will run between Highways 400 and 404, will be tolled like Highway 407, so taxpayers will foot the bill.
Despite Ford’s unwillingness to disclose the tab, the Conservatives provided ample details on the fact construction would create 800 jobs annually and generate as much as $2.3 billion of earnings for workers.
The Tory leader also disputed the Liberal claims about the time saved by commuters.
“This will save 30 minutes per trip for a commuter -- that’s an hour of your day returned to you. That’s five hours per week out of gridlock and in your home with your loved ones.”
On Wednesday night, some 800 Tories gathered at Ford’s campaign rally at the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke.
In contrast to his earthy, free-form “Ford nation” events of 2018, it was a more corporate crowd with no homemade signs or banners.
Ford delivered his carefully scripted stump speech, using an elaborate setup of five Teleprompters.Outside, a smattering of anti-vaccination protesters demonstrated against Ford’s lockdowns earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.